The Trump administration’s repeal of President Barack Obama’s signature policy to combat global warming – a curb on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants – drew a mixed response Tuesday from Montanans.
Scott Pruitt, chief of the Environmental Protection Agency, signed a measure repealing the Clean Power Plan, and in a news release accused his predecessors of veering away from “regulatory norms.”
The Clean Power Plan was intended to push the U.S. away from coal-fired power and toward sources of electricity that produce fewer carbon emissions.
In the written statement, Pruitt said the repeal “will also facilitate the development of U.S. energy resources and reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens associated with the development of those resources.”
The repeal is part of President Donald Trump’s effort to deny climate change and its causes – and to erase all vestiges of the Obama administration’s environmental legacy. Carbon emissions are a key cause of global warming.
News of the repeal, which was expected, prompted quick rebuttals from Montana conservation groups on Tuesday.
At the same time, members of the state’s all-Republican Public Service Commission hailed Pruitt’s action, noting their own doubts about climate change but also wondering if the power plan has already killed the coal industry.
Here are statements released by the commissioners:
“Administrator Pruitt took an important step today to unwind the disastrous legacy of the Clean Power Plan, but consumers will continue to feel the impacts of this misguided policy for decades to come,” said PSC Chairman Brad Johnson, R-East Helena. “Utilities across the country have made resource planning decisions based on this regulation and in some cases, a carbon-cost component is already baked into the rates customers pay for electricity. Those decisions can’t be easily undone and ratepayers will continue to suffer higher electricity prices as a result.”
Said vice-chairman Travis Kavulla, R-Great Falls: “The Clean Power Plan was EPA’s attempt to create energy policy for states like Montana using an obscure provision of the federal Clean Air Act. That law was intended to give EPA authority to require upgrades to power plants. Instead, EPA reinterpreted the law in an attempt to rearrange the entire structure of the electric sector.”
“The Clean Power Plan was less about carbon emissions than it was about raw political power and one federal agency’s desire to obtain it. Even those who believe something should be done about carbon emissions know that this was the wrong way to go about doing it,” Kavulla said.
Commissioner Tony O’Donnell of Billings said the power plan “was all pain no gain for Montana. The draconian emission’s reductions specified in the plan would have created substantial hardship for Montana families in the form of higher electricity rates and lost jobs without achieving any meaningful reduction in global C02 levels. I applaud Administrator Pruitt for putting an end to this misguided and failed experiment.”
Added Roger Koopman, R-Bozeman: “Recent environmental policy has been too often driven by close-minded political correctness that shuts down healthy debate on the climate change question. As a result, the EPA was about to take a wrecking ball to Montana’s economy, based on dubious, unproven scientific claims.”
Even with the repeal, the future of coal power remains uncertain, said Commissioner Bob Lake, R-Hamilton, who also represents Missoula on the PSC.
“It’s too early to tell what effect this decision will have on the market for coal power, but the Clean Power Plan was a major factor driving the accelerated closure of coal plants in the West,” said Lake. “There are many challenges ahead for the coal industry, but this decision will ensure that generators of all fuel types have the opportunity to compete to serve customers without thumb of the federal government on the scale.”
Conservation groups across the state also issued written statements in the wake of Pruitt’s announcement. Theirs, however, were critical of the decision and warned of dire consequences.
Here are those statements:
Montana Conservation Voters: “Climate change puts my outdoor recreation business at risk. I work alongside my employees, outdoors, hosting visitors to my family’s ranch. The Trump administration’s decision to repeal the Clean Power Plan will not only put me and my employees at risk but also Montana’s outdoor way of life by worsening climate change and increasing air pollution. Whether it’s this year’s fire season that led to mandatory evacuations and air labeled as ‘extremely unhealthy’ or warmer rivers and streams with less water that lead to fishing restrictions, climate change is affecting my business as well as others across the state. The bottom line is that the Clean Power Plan protects Montanans.” Juanita Vero, Montana Conservation Voters board chair
Montana Wildlife Federation: “This proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan is bad for Montana’s hunters, anglers, and outdoor businesses. The changing climate is the biggest long-term threat to Montana’s fish, wildlife, and outdoor recreation. As stated in the recently released Montana Climate Assessment, devastating wildfires, stream closures, and disease outbreaks like the PKD outbreak in the Yellowstone River last year could become the new norm if our carbon emissions aren’t checked soon. The Clean Power Plan was the single most important thing our country has done to address climate change. Repealing it would be a big blow to the long-term health of Montana’s outdoor economy.” Dave Chadwick, Executive Director of the Montana Wildlife Federation
Montana Chapter of the Moms Clean Air Force: “If we are serious in our collective commitment to the health and well-being of Montana children and their future, we must continue to work in our own communities to create a demand for clean energy. The Trump Administration can’t reverse the progress of states, cities and local communities that are moving forward to protect our children from climate change. The Administration’s effort to get rid of clean air protections puts more of our children at risk for asthma and other diseases. In Montana, we understand the immense opportunities for clean energy and deeply value our big sky and clean air, we understand that our kids should get dirty, not our air.” Michelle Uberuaga, Montana mother
David Merrill, Sierra Club: “The last thing Montanans want to hear after a devastating fire season is that the Trump Administration is throwing into reverse current efforts to control the carbon pollution that is driving intensified fire activity in the American West and threatening the livability of the only planet our children will ever have. This reckless and immoral denial of climate change drags along the continued extraction and burning of fossil fuels and delays the modern, clean renewable energy system Montana so urgently needs.” David Merrill, Sierra Club Montana Senior Organizing Representative
Environment Montana: “The Trump administration’s proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan is an egregious attack on all Montanans’ health, environment, and future. Only weeks after Montana’s smoky air cleared from a remarkably volatile fires season and supercharged hurricanes devastated Texas, Louisiana, Florida and Puerto Rico, President Trump has moved to dismantle the Clean Power Plan, the biggest single step any nation has ever taken to cut the carbon pollution that causes global warming. This rollback undermines our ability to the combat climate change, which is making extreme weather more deadly and destructive. Refusing to address climate change is not an option.” Skye Borden, Environment Montana State Director